US Senate panel slashes aid to Pak by more than half

Washington: Sounding a fresh warning to Pakistan, a key Senate panel has voted to slash American assistance to Islamabad by more than half, approving only USD 1 billion in aid for fiscal 2013 and warned of further cuts unless it reopens NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, which passes the budget for the State Department, yesterday approved only USD 1 billion in assistance to Pakistan, slashing nearly USD 900 million from the aid that the country had been due to receive this year and next.

The Senate action reflected growing American anger over a month-long standoff and comes just after a NATO Summit in Chicago where Washington had hoped to reach a deal with Islamabad on supply routes. "The panel voted to cut aid to Pakistan by 58 per cent in fiscal 2013 as lawmakers questioned Islamabad`s commitment to fight against terrorism," said Republican Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Sub-Committee.

"We are not adding to the money in the pipeline, but we are going to basically take all of the money out of the pipeline if we can not get these routes open because we are not going to invest in a country that won`t help us in a reasonable way to deal with threats to our forces in Afghanistan," the Senator told reporters after the vote.

In a statement, the sub-committee said the bill includes a total of USD 1 billion for Pakistan, USD 184 million was for Department of State operations, USD 800.3 million for foreign assistance, including USD 50 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.

Leahy said the bill totals USD 52.1 billion, which is USD 2.6 billion below the President`s budget request, and USD 1.2 billion below the Fiscal Year 2012 level. The full Appropriations Committee meets on Thursday to give its final approval to the bill.